November 26, 2013

2013 Research Grant Program awardees

The 2013 cycle of the CTFS-ForestGEO Research Grant Program was competitive. Approximately 45 interesting and diverse proposals were submitted from all over the globe.  Each proposal was read by network scientists, and ranked according to scientific merit, contribution to the network, educational contribution, and status of the Principle Investor (PI) to determine an overall rank. 10 proposals were selected for funding. Find a summary of each funded proposal below.

Fruit and flower characteristics of 5 dioecious
tree species

Na Wei, a PhD Candidate at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, submitted Ecological and genetic consequences of effective seed dispersal in tropical trees. The research will take place at BCI, Panama.

Chris Dahl, a PhD candidate with the University of South Bohemia (USB, Czech Republic), submitted Assemblages of seed-and fruit-feeding insects in tropical rainforests: ecological and phylogenetic comparison. Research will take place at BCI, Panama, Khao Chong, Thailand and Wanang, PNG.

Duncan Kimuyu, a third year PhD candidate at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nairobi, Kenya, submitted  Factors influencing elephant browsing damage on Acacia drepanolobium trees within the Mpala CTFS-SIGEO plot. Research will take place at Mpala, Kenya.

Gordon McNickel, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Biology submitted Games in the Boreal Forest: A model for tree allocation to roots, wood and leaves based evolutionary stable strategies. Research will be held at Scotty Creek Forest Dynamic Plot in Canada.  

KC Cushman, an Intern with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) submitted Improving Estimates of Biomass Change in Buttressed Trees Using Site-Specific Tree Taper Model. Research will be conducted at Yasuni, Ecuador, Bukit Timah, Singapore, Khao Chong, Thailand and Huai Kha Khaeng, Thailand.

Kang Min Ngo, a research assistant at the National Institute of Singapore submitted What is the loss of large fauna on the dispersal and recruitment of big seeded plan? Research will take place at Bukit Timah, Singapore, Pasoh, Malaysia, Lambir, Malaysia and Khao Chong, Thailand.

Lien Lien, PhD, Director of Programs and Operations - Novell Community Development Solutions submitted Comparative Study of Frugivorous Wildlife Species Contribution to Seed Dispersal between the 50-Ha Korup Forest Dynamic Plot (KFDP) and the 50-Ha Plot within the Korup National Southwest Cameroon. Research will take place at Korup, Cameroon.

Marko Spasojevic, a Postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Biology and Tyson Research Center submitted Investigating the influence of regional functional diversity on local community assembly across a temperate biodiversity gradient. Research will be held at Tyson Research Center, MO, SERC, MD and Yosemite, California.

Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot
Molly Barth, a Master of Science Candidate, Department of Forest Management, College of Forestry and Conservation at The University of Montana submitted Fire history of the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot. Research will be held at Yosemite, California.

Ryan McEwan, associate professor, Department of Biology at the University of Dayton submitted Taxonomic diversity, functional diversity, and typhoon impacts shape patterns of carbon storage across the topographically complex subtropical forests of Taiwan. Research will be held at Fushan, Taiwan and Lienhuachih, Taiwan.

For more information on the CTFS-ForestGEO Research Grants Program, visit here.

November 15, 2013

Tyson Research Center Plot joins CTFS-ForestGEO and expands the network to 52 plots worldwide

Victoria Sork and Jonathan next to a a Pignut Hickory
The Tyson Research Center Plot (TRCP) is the latest plot to join the CTFS-ForestGEO network. It is located ~20 miles from St. Louis, in the relatively understudied Ozark region of the Midwest. It is owned and operated by Washington University and consists primarily of an oak-hickory forest.

TRCP has a unique history.  Two ecologists from the University of Missouri-St. Louis—Dr. Victoria Sork and her Masters student Carol Hampe—were leading a charge to establish a temperate-forest counterpart to the BCI plot in a forest at Tyson Research Center, Missouri, USA. Since 1981, the TRCP has been censused three times. In 1981–1982, Carol Hampe and Victoria Sork conducted the first census of the 4-ha plot. The second census was conducted in 1989 following a record drought year in 1988. Data from both censuses were never published.  In 2010–2012 the Principal Investigator, Dr. Jonathan A. Myers, Department of Biology & Tyson Research Center, Washington University, re-established the project and conducted a third census of the original 4 ha, expanded the plot to 12 ha, and organized the data provided by Sork into a standardized database using the CTFS-ForestGEO format. 

The now 20-ha TRCP represents a key component of the long-term research program at Tyson Research Center and is a valuable addition to the networks temperate and tropical research. TRCP has officially been incorporated into the network and will be providing a uniquely long-term (30-year) data set for the Temperate Forest Program of the CTFS-ForestGEO network. 

Read the feature of Tyson's inclusion into the Smithsonian's survey on climate change.

November 7, 2013

Intern Cory Wallace shares his summer experience at Scotty Creek

Cory Wallace was awarded an internship under the supervision of Dr. Stuart Davies to assist in inventorying Scotty Creek Forest Dynamic Plot this past summer. He continues working on Scotty Creek related data, with the intention of continuing his education at the graduate level. Cory is currently working as a research assistant to Dr. Jennifer Baltzer at Wilfrid Laurier University. He received his B.Sc. in Forest Science from the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia in May of 2013. His research interests focus on understanding the mechanisms behind plant species distributions and plant community composition and structure.

As a requirement of the internship Cory wrote a report about his experience at Scotty Creek:

"Scotty Creek is a land of water. You do not need to spend much time in the discontinuous permafrost peatlands to realize how important water is in shaping everything in the system. The bogs, fens, and lakes that make up large portions of the total surface area are all defined by their relationship with water. There is dry land, but even that is caused by soil water freezing, forming permafrost, and lifting the peat out of the surrounding water. Looking out from the dock at Goose Lake, you get a real sense for the lack of topographic variation in the area. Black spruce (Picea mariana) dominates the permafrost plateaus bordering the lake, making the horizon look like a flat wall of trees. What hills are visible appear to skirt the edge of the lake, despite often being several hundred meters away. One of few exceptions to this is the hill Goose Lake Camp itself is situated upon. A relatively
unique deposit of mineral soil, this small hill rises about four meters above the lake and is home to some of the rare tree species of Scotty Creek, namely jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides).

This hill was my home for one hundred days this summer, starting with a helicopter ride in on May 23rd and ending with a floatplane flight out on September 2nd. It also acted as a base of operations for the primary purpose of my being at Scotty Creek, which was to inventory and map the Scotty Creek forest dynamics plot that is the first boreal plot within the CTFS-ForestGEO network. The goal was to measure the diameter of every tree in the 20.8-hectare plot that was between 1 and 10 centimeters in diameter at 1.3 meters up the stem. The stand density of trees in this size class was quite variable from quadrat to quadrat. Quadrats consisting of large bogs could easily have only one or two trees, while the quadrats dominated by permafrost plateaus could contain thick black spruce forests, occasionally reaching densities up to 550 trees per 400 sq-meter quadrat. Unfortunately, we had not expected this kind of density and by the end of the summer we had finished less than one quarter of the plot.

We ran into a few additional puzzles this summer. Most notable among them was the identification of birch (Betula spp.). We began the summer expecting only three species of birch. These were Betula glandulosa, B. occidentalis, and B. neoalaskana. We later learned that there was likely also B. pumila in the plot and that this looked very similar to what we had been calling a hybrid between B. glandulosa and B. occidentalis. To complicate things further we learned that B. nana hybrids were also possibly present and that all five species hybridized with one another. This confusion led to the creation of a Betula herbarium and corresponding catalogue. With this project we tried to capture as much of the phenotypic variation present in the plot as we could. The next step is for someone with more knowledge of the genus to use this catalogue to assign samples to species. Hopefully this will help the next plot crew be clearer on their identification. A similar catalogue was created for the genus Salix, which also gave us trouble. 

The nights started getting dark in my last few weeks at camp. Finally the birch and the Labrador tea (Rhodedendron groenlandecum) began to change color and mornings became dewy. By this time, camp had begun to slow down and my plot work switched from inventorying trees to collecting roots. Dr. Gord McNickle and I spent a few weeks twisting PVC pipe into the ground to pull up soil cores. This was done evenly across a general productivity gradient that stretches from east to west in the plot. The goal of this work was to get an idea of root density in the plot as well as to study how this density might change with nutrient availability in an ecosystem already starved for nutrients. Attempting to address a similar question, I began work on a project studying how ectomycorrhizal fungal associations change along the same productivity gradient. As the days got colder, I found myself digging through peat attempting to find as many fine roots as possible from small (10- 130 centimeters in height) black spruce and tamarack (Larix laricina) individuals. With all of the samples back in Waterloo, I am now getting a chance to process and morphotype the root tips."